GEORGETOWN, Texas – Andrew Puhl hit three free throws in the final 15 seconds and the Southwestern University Pirates men's basketball team shot 24-for-28 from the free-throw line overall to defeat the Schreiner University Mountaineers 68-65 and remain undefeated in Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) play.
Puhl and Brandon Alexander each scored 13 points to lead the Pirates, producing nearly identical stat lines.
The two forwards struggled from the field, each shooting 3-for-10 from the floor, including 0-for-3 from deep, but worked their way to the free-throw line with physical play, where each shot 7-for-8.
Neither team shot better than 40 percent from the floor in a game mostly played in the trenches. The Mountaineers finished 22-for-56 from the field (39.3 percent), including 8-for-23 from the 3-point line. Where Schreiner really came undone was at the free-throw line, where they hit just 13-for-31 (41.9 percent).
The Pirates didn't fare any better, hitting just 20-for-51 (38.5 percent), including 4-for-16 from deep while committing 14 turnovers to just seven assists. They made the most of their free throws, however, shooting 85.7 percent from the line, and second chance opportunities, where they outscored Schreiner 11-3.
Southwestern struggled without starting center Jake Holmes, who missed the game with an injury. The shape and structure of a college offense is often thought to be provided by those who handle the ball the most. Holmes doesn't use the most possessions on the team, but his ability to read the floor from the elbow extended, deliver pinpoint passes, attack other centers of the dribble and flow from one action to the next helps to connect much of what the Pirates want to do offensively.
His absence was noticed in the rhythm of the screens being a beat or two off and the floor balance and rotations slightly askew.
The Pirates struggled in the first half, turning the ball over eight times to trail 33-29 at the break.
As he's done since joining the starting lineup, Puhl stepped up in the second half, crashing the glass for five rebounds and barreling his way into the lane, scoring all 13 of his points in the second half on 3-for-7 shooting with his seven free throws.
The defensive pressure picked up in the second half, taking the Mountaineers out of rhythm with a full court press and denying the first and second passing options in the half court.
Trenton Garrett deflected a number of entry passes and the Pirates got solid minutes from Mike May, whose six points and five rebounds were secondary to the solid positional defense he played in the post and boxing out Schreiner's frontcourt on the glass.
Andrew Sparks led Schreiner with 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting and Matthew Rindahl had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds but shot just 3-for-12 from the field. Ellis Jones scored 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting but was plagued by foul trouble.
By gritting out the win, the Pirates improve to 7-6 on the season and 4-0 in conference play while the Mountaineers drop to 5-8 and 1-3. Southwestern will hit the road next weekend for away games against Austin College on Friday, Jan. 11 at 8:00 p.m., and Dallas on Saturday, Jan. 12 at 6:00 p.m.